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Two new bits of news for Hatton Research and Consulting:

First, I have decided to use the new social media network Tsu as my primary HR&C profile. I will share content, ideas, research on there that is relevant to what I do. Maybe also music reviews or whatever else I like to do. The gimmick to Tsu is that ad revenue is distributed to users (rather than the Facebook model where ad revenue is kept by Facebook). There is also an incentive to invite others, so if you want to follow my updates or join yourself, CLICK HERE.

Second, Hatton Research and Consulting is now officially an L.L.C. Thanks to all my current and future clients for making this possible.

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I was able to contribute to a chapter of a book on public health that was just published. It is called Rural Public Health: Best Practices and Preventive Measures, an edited volume on public health. The editors were Jacob C. Warren and K. Bryant Smalley. My contribution, in Chapter 14, dealt with the unique challenges that Native Americans face in terms of physical and mental health.

The textbook is available from Springer Publishing Company.

I have recently received word that a paper that I extracted from my master’s thesis, entitled “Is the ‘War on Terror’ a mortality salience prime? Framing effects of counterterrorism metaphors on anti-Muslim prejudice before and after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings” has won first place at the Southeastern Psychological Association’s annual conference, for the Committee on Equality for Professional Opportunity’s (CEPO) graduate research award.

I will be giving a presentation based on the paper at the 2014 SEPA annual conference on March 6th, 2014, in Nashville, TN.

Ink and watercolor on 11'' x 15'' paper.

Ink and watercolor on 11” x 15” paper.

I consider my primary artistic gift (if I have one at all) to be songwriting, but I have always enjoyed doing visual arts as well.  A decade-and-a-half of this means I’ve got a pile of art that I’ve done, but don’t display for space reasons.  As such, I’ve decided to put my artwork online in case anyone is interested in purchasing a piece or two.  If you are interested in it, please “like” my fan page on Facebook (the link is over on the right sidebar) and I’ll post whatever items I’ve photographed or scanned lately.

Someone posted a link to this in my Facebook newsfeed this morning, and I watched it and was very moved.  It’s a video of a homeless man being given a makeover.

When I watched it I realized how emotionally moving it is. But gosh, it’s depressing that it’s moving. I didn’t want to be the one curmudgeon on Facebook to point this out, but the whole point of the video is that we feel differently about the post-makeover man than the pre-makeover man (Buzzfeed says “They wanted to show Jim that a respectable guy was still underneath all that scruff.”). But that’s one of the biggest problems of homelessness to begin with, isn’t it? That our feelings of value toward the homeless (and actually, their feelings of value toward themselves) hinge so much on their appearance.

But let’s face it, in this world, appearances do matter. How we dress does matter, both to the way people look at us and the way we look at ourselves. So let’s recognize that, use it to the best of our abilities (to help ourselves get the “boost” that we need to fix things), but look forward to a day when we’re just as moved by the pre-makeover homeless as the clean-cut homeless who wear suits.

reddoMy brother David has a software development company called Evomobius.  While he was teaching English in Brazil, he came up with the idea to create an immersive language-learning RPG game that simulates the real world.  It’s a great idea based on sound psychological principles, so I offered to write up a short research brief as a behavioral research consultant that explains some of the science behind his idea.  If you’re interested in helping this idea come to pass, please consider visiting his Kickstarter and contributing.

The Science behind Immersive Language Learning and Virtual Environments

Our current state of behavioral research tends to support what many people find to be intuitive: it is better to learn a second language by immersing yourself more fully in an environment where that language is used. This is how we all learned our first language. As infants and toddlers, none of us learned how to speak our native language by sitting in a classroom, reading textbooks and pictures. Instead, the world was our classroom. As we interacted with the objects and people around us, we were reinforced to associate words and phrases with those objects. We learned the rules through trial-and-error in a fully immersive environment.

Some language theorists suggest that language learning can be understood in the context of operant conditioning (Skinner, 1957; Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, & Roche, 2001). In layman’s terms, language is a behavior, and we learn this behavior through our interactions with and reinforcements from our environment. Just like learning how to ride a bicycle, paint pictures, or play basketball requires doing and not just seeing or observing, language learning requires practice in the context of a real environment.

It is no wonder, then, that research comparing more immersive types of second language instruction to traditional classroom learning has long shown that immersion is better (Campbell, Gray, Rhodes, & Snow, 1985). Immersive programs focus on using the second language as a primary mode of instruction, and result in better and more rapid growth of vocabulary knowledge (Lo & Murphy, 2010). If they start early, students in immersion programs can achieve near-native fluency (Larazuk, 2007).

Additionally, learning a new language can be scary, and it is always tempting to fall back on one’s native language. Immersive language environments require the student to overcome his or her fears and actually use the language in order to achieve goals, and this may be one key to its effectiveness (see MacIntyre, Burns, & Alison, 2011).

The studies I have mentioned have largely compared immersive and traditional classroom settings. Reddo is not necessarily a structured or immersive classroom, but it will seek to emulate immersion by placing the user in a digital reality that mirrors the real world. Reinforcements will come in the form of quests that users can undertake that help them learn as they play. Research has shown that virtual reality can create a sort of “new reality” for people that use it, and as a result, virtual realities have been shown to be effective in learning environments, in settings as diverse as education for students with Asperger syndrome (Lorenzo, Pomares, & Lledó, 2013), and science education (Kartiko, Kavakli, & Cheng, 2010). Some researchers have even developed treatments for people with phobias by constructing virtual realities that can safely expose patients to the things they fear (Brakoulias, 2013).

As a result of these theories and findings, as soon as the technology became available, theorists have suggested that virtual realities can serve as potential tools for language learning (Schwienhorst, 2002).

Reddo will seek to emulate real-world situations that world travelers are likely to experience if they visit a country that speaks a new language (navigating through an airport, making purchases, taking the bus, etc.). This strategy may be the closest you can get to visiting a foreign country and immersing yourself in their language without actually leaving your home.

Since it hasn’t been created yet, I cannot evaluate whether Reddo will be more effective than other language-learning software. However, the research does seem to suggest 1) we learn language through direct behavioral interactions with our environment; 2) immersive language learning programs are more effective than traditional classroom language learning; and 3) virtual realities can serve as safe, “alternate realities” that can emulate the real world enough for therapeutic and learning value.

These three points do seem to suggest that Reddo has the potential to be a powerful new way to learn how to speak a second language.

References

Brakoulias, V. (2013). Virtual reality can help to develop a new reality. Australian And New Zealand Journal Of Psychiatry, 47(2), 186-187.

Campbell, R. N., Gray, T. C., Rhodes, N. C., & Snow, M. A. (1985). Foreign language learning in the elementary schools: A comparison of three language programs. Modern Language Journal, 69(1), 44-54.

Hayes S. C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Roche, B., eds. Relational frame theory: A post-Skinnerian account of human language and cognition. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum; 2001.

Kartiko, I., Kavakli, M., & Cheng, K. (2010). Learning science in a virtual reality application: The impacts of animated-virtual actors’ visual complexity. Computers & Education, 55(2), 881-891.

Lazaruk, W. (2007). Linguistic, academic, and cognitive benefits of French immersion. Canadian Modern Language Review, 63(5), 605-627.

Lorenzo, G., Pomares, J., & Lledó, A. (2013). Inclusion of immersive virtual learning environments and visual control systems to support the learning of students with Asperger syndrome. Computers & Education, 6288-101.

Lo, Y., & Murphy, V. A. (2010). Vocabulary knowledge and growth in immersion and regular language-learning programmes in Hong Kong. Language And Education, 24(3), 215-238.

MacIntyre, P. D., Burns, C., & Jessome, A. (2011). Ambivalence about communicating in a second language: A qualitative study of French immersion students’ willingness to communicate. Modern Language Journal, 95(1), 81-96.

Schwienhorst, K. (2002). Why virtual, why environments? Implementing virtual reality concepts in computer-assisted language learning. Simulation & Gaming, 33(2), 196-209.
Skinner B.F. Verbal behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts; 1957

New FishI purchased a Betta fish for my oldest boy last week and I’ve really been enjoying watching it swim around. Since purchasing it, I have been searching online to see how to take care of it. Boy is there a ton of information online! I decided to summarize some major points of Betta care here on this blog so people can reference it.

How to Properly Care for a Betta Fish

  1. Many people think that the primary habitats for Bettas in the world are muddy puddles in Thailand.  That’s not true!  Bettas primarily live in aquariums.  There is a myth going around that Bettas are “low maintenance” fish that require very little attention.  Nothing could be further from the truth!
  2. As a result of the above misunderstanding, many cruel individuals put Bettas in small, crowded cups and tiny desktop aquariums, almost never changing the water.  These individuals should be dragged out of their offices and savagely beaten.
  3. Bettas need tanks, and the bigger the better!  Some suggest 10 gallon tanks, but I find this to be far too small.  It is much preferred to put Bettas in bathtubs, or even better, outdoor swimming pools.  They will be very happy!
  4. Bettas are loving, gentle creatures, that will brutally attack, maul, and kill any other living thing that you place in or near its tank.  Please do not do that.
  5. As far as habitat goes, you should include several live plants, a cave, some decent furniture, a washer/dryer hookup (AT LEAST) and place the tank near a window so the Betta can look pensively to the outside world from which it was cruelly taken.  Whatever color decorations you choose, please keep in mind that Bettas like it when its habitat is modern, but “pops.”  Do not attempt to use Feng Shui  to arrange the habitat, not because the Betta doesn’t like Feng Shui, but because you’re likely to do it wrong and Bettas feel that if you can’t do it right you shouldn’t be doing it at all.
  6. You must take special care not to stress out your fish.  Bettas are especially stressed out when touch the glass, tap the glass, look at them, say things about them behind their backs, discuss sensitive political or religious topics when near the tank (Note: Bettas are usually Libertarians and Methodists, but DON’T want to talk about it), when the water is too warm, when the water is too cold, if there are too many bubbles on the sides of the tank, if they don’t have a little cave to swim in, if you under- or over-feed them, and during major holidays when it is unable to see its family.  (Note:  DO NOT attempt to reunite the Betta with its family, as it will probably attempt to kill them)
  7. A stressed-out Betta is likely to commit suicide by leaping out of the aquarium onto your carpet.
  8. You can check to see if a Betta is stressed by looking for the following behaviors:  blowing bubbles, hyperventilating, swimming, looking around, and hiding in its cave (if you even thought to buy one, you insensitive jerk).  If your Betta is stressed we suggest putting on some West Coast Jazz (Note:  NOT EAST COAST JAZZ) and making an appointment for a local therapist who specializes in one of the following clinical modalities:  DBT, ACT, or CBT (Note: NOT PSYCHODYNAMIC – PLEASE DO NOT MENTION PARENTS TO THE BETTA AS THIS IS A RATHER SENSITIVE ISSUE).
  9. Bettas should live in unfiltered, uncycled tanks.  Anything else stresses out a Betta.  As such, you will need to completely change your water every two hours to ensure that your water is not stressing out your Betta.  I suggest having a second, larger backup tank to move the Betta to when you are cleaning the first tank.  Then switch and clean the second tank.
  10. You need to check your aquarium hourly for the presence of these toxic chemicals:  too much iron, calcium, phosphorus, uranium, ammonia, bleach, radium, kryptonite, stones, dissolved noble gasses, bubbles, dust, water.  If you detect the presence of any of these substances please drain your tank, and take your Betta back to the store because you are unfit to own a Betta.
  11. After checking for toxic substances, you need to test the pH of the water, the temperature, how hard/soft it is, how much air is in it, how much water is in it, how much has evaporated since you began testing, and how much current there is.  Keep a log book to track all these factors over time.  Use Excel to create charts of these factors if you wish, but remember to use plain colors and stay two-dimensional (Note: creating 3D charts is tacky and will cause your colleagues to hate you – this is not strictly Betta advice but applies more generally).
  12. The Betta does not like it when you walk away or turn your back on it.  Please place your bed next to the tank so the Betta does not feel abandoned while you sleep.  Bettas want you to ask how their day went and they can tell if you’re not really interested.  Please ask the Betta how it is doing and don’t be a “fixer” – sometimes the Betta just needs to vent and doesn’t need you always trying to fix its problems.
  13. Under no circumstances should Bettas live in unfiltered, uncycled tanks.  These tend to stress out the Betta.  In order to make a proper habitat for your Betta, you will need to cycle your tank.  There are many resources online that have several methods for cycling your tank, but the most reliable one is to fill your tank, let it sit in your room for eight weeks, then take your tank to Thailand and bury it in a rice paddy.  Allow the natural water to mix with your water gradually over the next week and then introduce your Betta into the tank very gradually (give this about eight more weeks).  Your Betta will then be very happy in its natural habitat, surrounded by its natural foods and predators.

Now some might look at all these rules and think, “That seems like a lot of upkeep for a $8 fish.”  If you are thinking this, you will never be worthy to keep a Betta, or even for that matter a human relationship.  Please do not purchase a Betta if you are not willing to put the time and effort into keeping it alive.

Good luck!